Why aren't millennials buying houses? They can't afford it.

When the economy bounced back, millennial salary prospects didn't.

Have you seen this guy?

Memes from here and here.


Friends, meet "Old Economy Steve."

On the Internet, Steve has become the judgmental, clueless baby-boomer embodiment of millennials' worst money-related frustrations.

Who is he, exactly? Well, Old Economy Steve knew how to pull himself up by his bootstraps. He graduated from college without student debt, immediately got a high-paying job, and plans to retire with a pension. He just can't understand why those lazy millennials are living with their parents and still unemployed. (Spoiler: Old Economy Steve is kind of a jerk.)

Of course, Old Economy Steve is really just the fictionalized version of millennial financial anxieties. (And, by the way, it seems like the real "Steve" in the photo is actually a down-to-earth guy). I'd like to think most boomers are a little more compassionate toward us young folk than he is, too, but his meme definitely reflects the discomfort that many millennials have with their money situations right now.

Well, then. Thanks, Google.

What do I mean by “millennial money situations?"

You've heard it all before, so sing along if you know the words: Millennials aren't buying houses, they're not buying cars, they're not saving for retirement, and sometimes they're not even moving out of their parents' basements.

Is all of this because millennials are lazy? Entitled? Coddled? Snake people? Poor planners?

Not quite. A lot of folks would argue that it's because millennials have no money (check out that point of view in an article from the New York Times earlier this year). Here are a few truth bombs that might explain what's going on:

1. Millennial wages aren't just frozen — they're actually shrinking.

Many millennials were either in college or about to graduate when the recession hit hard. Lots of employees across the U.S. were let go — not exactly the best economic climate when you're looking for your first job.

And while the economy bounced back, their salary prospects did not. As The Atlantic pointed out last year, average wages for young people have fallen by 10% in many industries since 2007. Add that to the fact that many millennials live in big cities with extremely high rents and high costs of living because that's where the jobs are.

Just to put it in perspective, the average male student graduating from college in 1979 made an hourly wage of $19.97 (adjusted for inflation). For 2010 graduates, the average hourly wage was $21.77 — down almost a dollar from 2000. And female graduates make even less than that. You can point that out to them when they ask why you're not planning on buying a house in your 20s.

So we're not getting paid as much as previous generations of young adults were getting paid, we live in places where it's not really feasible to buy a home, and of course…

2. Student loans eat up a hefty chunk of whatever income millennials have left.

The average student loan debt for the class of 2011 was $26,600. Most of those students are living under the shadow of that debt for years, sometimes even decades.

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Say hello to Sallie Mae (she's on the left.)

Experts posit that millennials are less likely to be homeowners than previous generations mostly because all of their cash is going toward paying off their debt. Most are unable to save.

But there's one more piece of information that might surprise you about millennials' finances:

3. We're finding ways to fix the problem.

I'm going to speak for my generation for a second here: Just because we're young, it doesn't mean we're lazy. We haven't given up yet. In fact, a lot of us are finding some really creative solutions to cope with the changing economy.

Like what? Like tiny houses. These little homes are inexpensive, energy-efficient, and quickly becoming a trend. And in the future, we might even see apartment-like buildings made of mobile “smart homes."

Tiny homes! Image from Guillaume Dutilh on Wikimedia Commons.

We're also being smarter about our health care costs, thanks in part to the Affordable Care Act. The uninsured rate for young folks is lower now than it's been since before 1997.

And we're putting pressure on our lawmakers to get real about paralyzing student loans. There's no reason interest rates on student debt should be so high, and some elected representatives and candidates are speaking up about it.

So, lazy? Entitled? Coddled? Snake people? Poor planners? Not quite.

Unable to keep their heads above water? That seems more like it. Admittedly, there's a lot of systemic work still to be done for millennials and their financial security. I'm in the thick of it with all the rest of you.

But there's also a lot that we're already doing — because just like every other generation, we want control over our futures.

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On an old episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in July 1992, Oprah put her audience through a social experiment that puts racism in a new light. Despite being nearly two decades old, it's as relevant today as ever.

She split the audience members into two groups based on their eye color. Those with brown eyes were given preferential treatment by getting to cut the line and given refreshments while they waited to be seated. Those with blue eyes were made to put on a green collar and wait in a crowd for two hours.

Staff were instructed to be extra polite to brown-eyed people and to discriminate against blue-eyed people. Her guest for that day's show was diversity expert Jane Elliott, who helped set up the experiment and played along, explaining that brown-eyed people were smarter than blue-eyed people.

Watch the video to see how this experiment plays out.

Oprah's Social Experiment on Her Audience www.youtube.com

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via Cadbury

Cadbury has removed the words from its Dairy Milk chocolate bars in the U.K. to draw attention to a serious issue, senior loneliness.

On September 4, Cadbury released the limited-edition candy bars in supermarkets and for every one sold, the candy giant will donate 30p (37 cents) to Age UK, an organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for the elderly.

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Young people today are facing what seems to be greater exposure to complex issues like mental health, bullying, and youth violence. As a result, teachers are required to be well-versed in far more than school curriculum to ensure students are prepared to face the world inside and outside of the classroom. Acting as more than teachers, but also mentors, counselors, and cheerleaders, they must be equipped with practical and relevant resources to help their students navigate some of the more complicated social issues – though access to such tools isn't always guaranteed.

Take Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, for example, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years, and as a teacher for seven. Entering the profession, she didn't anticipate how much influence a student's home life could affect her classroom, including "students who lived in foster homes" and "lacked parental support."

Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience, says it can be difficult to create engaging course work that's applicable to the challenges students face. "I think that sometimes, teachers don't know where to begin. Teachers are always looking for ways to make learning in their classrooms more relevant."

So what resources do teachers turn to in an increasingly fractured world? "Joining a professional learning network that supports and challenges thinking is one of the most impactful things that a teacher can do to support their own learning," Anglemyer says.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience.

A new program for teachers that offers this network along with other resources is the WE Teachers Program, an initiative developed by Walgreens in partnership with ME to WE and Mental Health America. WE Teachers provides tools and resources, at no cost to teachers, looking for guidance around the social issues related to poverty, youth violence, mental health, bullying, and diversity and inclusion. Through online modules and trainings as well as a digital community, these resources help them address the critical issues their students face.

Jessica Mauritzen, a high school Spanish teacher, credits a network of support for providing her with new opportunities to enrich the learning experience for her students. "This past year was a year of awakening for me and through support… I realized that I was able to teach in a way that built up our community, our school, and our students, and supported them to become young leaders," she says.

With the new WE Teachers program, teachers can learn to identify the tough issues affecting their students, secure the tools needed to address them in a supportive manner, and help students become more socially-conscious, compassionate, and engaged citizens.

It's a potentially life-saving experience for students, and in turn, "a great gift for teachers," says Dr. Sanderlin.

"I wish I had the WE Teachers program when I was a teacher because it provides the online training and resources teachers need to begin to grapple with these critical social issues that plague our students every day," she adds.

In addition to the WE Teachers curriculum, the program features a WE Teachers Award to honor educators who go above and beyond in their classrooms. At least 500 teachers will be recognized and each will receive a $500 Walgreens gift card, which is the average amount teachers spend out-of-pocket on supplies annually. Teachers can be nominated or apply themselves. To learn more about the awards and how to nominate an amazing teacher, or sign up for access to the teacher resources available through WE Teachers, visit walgreens.com/metowe.

WE Teachers
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via KGW-TV / YouTube

One of the major differences between women and men is that women are often judged based on their looks rather than their character or abilities.

"Men as well as women tend to establish the worth of individual women primarily by the way their body looks, research shows. We do not do this when we evaluate men," Naomi Ellemers Ph.D. wrote in Psychology Today.

Dr. Ellers believes that this tendency to judge a woman solely on her looks causes them to be seen as an object rather than a person.

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